Jamil Scalese: Snappy banter, big fights, huge consequences, cool reveals and sexy surprises, AXIS #2 is the reason I read superhero comics. Though I’ve matured and can value comics as a medium, and though I’m versed in important story elements like theme, character and plot in the end I’m still the ten year old kid who loves the bright colors and brutal action that are the staples of the genre. This issue made me pause two or three times to soak in the awesomeness; comics often make me smile but few force me to grin like I did when I used to watch X-Men, Spider-Man and Batman cartoons back in the day.
The second installment of Marvel’s fall event narrows the scope to focus on two of its bigger, more abrasive personalities, Iron Man and Magneto. Tony Stark is our viewpoint, a man reeling from the reveal that he’s secretly helped Red Skull develop and build two Avenger-busting Sentinels but without the time to dwell in self-pity. Rick Remender channels the movie Iron Man, mixing the trademark smarm and swagger with undeniable heroism, which might have pissed me off a few years ago but it’s executed so extremely well it’s hard to hate on. Havok was right, that was a good speech!
On the flipside we have Magneto, the other party responsible for the rise of Red Onslaught, and we’re reminded why Erik Max is such a fantastic figure. In recent years Magneto hasn’t often mingle with non-X-affiliated characters but his presence here is golden. Along the way several other characters get some really neat beats for personalities like the Summer brothers, Nova and Nightcrawler. The issue has a bit of an odd structure, it’s basically one long battle punctuated by a digressive breath-catching moment in the middle, however, despite all the action the plot moves ahead in a satisfactory way. We even get some hints about how this whole “inversion” thing will go down.
Shawn Hill: A couple of red flags for me this issue, “Inversion” being one of them. Did you know that was the original term for homosexuality back when doctors started to study it and tried to treat those with alternative gender identifications or sexualities over one hundred years ago? The poor suffering souls were known as “inverts,” which did have the virtue of making their habits an illness rather than a crime. So it’s pretty funny to have it used for this story, when the X-Men have so long been a gay (and other oppressed minority) metaphor. Only this time it’s about villains and heroes switching sides?
The other is just what you mention about Remender capturing the Downey Jr. Iron Man voice. He does exactly that, only I may be alone in that I think I’ve heard enough of it. The three films were good (the 2nd was my favorite), and Avengers was great, but this hyper-aware paranoid genius is too over-the-top for me. And now it turns out he did the same thing Batman has done (in animation and comics) and kept files on taking everyone down that have (of course) fallen into enemy hands? Pretty major screwup for such a genius.
I did like that anti-chemistry between Tony and Magneto, though, the way they grated on each other’s every word was very entertaining.
Jamil: I’ll agree that the “hero devises battleplan against his allies” concept is hardly new. In fact, I can remember Professor X doing it somewhere around Moz’s New X-Men run, so you gotta wonder why Skull needed Stark in the first place…
I think Remender does a good job of taking the idea to another level. First he differentiates the impetus for such a move. Batman does it because he’s obsessive about being ultra-prepared and wants to have the tools to take down any rogue Justice Leaguer (as we just saw in last week’s Batman #35). Iron Man’s “list” comes from a place of pure competitiveness, a tireless drive to prove he’s better than the next guy. I also think it’s implied that these stratagems aren’t written down anywhere, they’re stored in the crevices of his mind and it took some mental prodding to get them out. Of course some are saying this goes directly against Matt Fraction’s take on the character but I always hated that a simple mindwipe absolved Tony of his actions in Civil War, so I choose to accept this version.
Additionally, Remender shows that Tony’s plan succeeds in nullifying and capturing all the heroes and this opens up another narrative door that satisfies my inner comics-loving kid: since the Sentinels are programmed to defeat heroes, and only heroes, the villains are called upon by Magneto to save the day. That last page featuring a healthy bunch of Marvel’s A-list bad guys really sent a jolt through me. I gave Adam Kubert some crap last week about not delivering a top-notch issue but the slack is picked up here with a great art effort. Some of the pages are still not as clean as I’d prefer but there’s a definite energy in this comic that the last one was lacking.
Shawn: That double page spread that was three horizontal widescreen panels, followed by several smaller headshots, as Rogue saved Nova and flew through Red Onslaught’s giant eye! Quirky but intense! Magneto’s disgusted face when he grudgingly complies with one of Tony’s requests. The team-ups were also pretty awesome this issue: Sue and Medusa like old times, Thor and Ororo because of course, Strange and Scarlet Witch to channel both order and chaos, even the new rapport reached by Wasp and Havok regarding their lost daughter were all great moments that felt very life-or-death!
Jamil: Yes, this was an above average issue. I appreciate the lack of posturing and the very downhill pace so far. There’s a fresh aroma wafting off AXIS and I’m very excited to see what comes next.
Tie-In Tie Up!
(Cullen Bunn; Gabriel Hernandez Walta; Jordie Bellaire)
Directly above I said I was excited for more AXIS, so excited in fact that I’m investing in most of the tie-ins. I rarely reach for these things, I only read one Original Sin axillary and it was a title I already had a subscription to. It just so happens that a lot of these crossover series capture my interest, and Magneto #11 is a prime example of that.
I’m not reading this title but I’ve heard good things. Cullen Bunn is a talented writer and he’s shown some good range across his indy and Marvel work. Set within the happenings of AXIS #2 this issue was very easy to slip into. There are hints of Bunn’s greater framework but overall it focuses on Erik’s Max’s rationale for his choice to lead a team of supervillains against Red Onslaught and exactly how he gets all the divisive personalities to join the team.
The artwork succeeds for the most part. Walta’s method is subdued and bristly and it clashes a bit with the typically chrome-sleek Magneto. His style is close to Declan Shalvey, minimalist at first glance but softly intricate with a touch of the macabre. Maybe I make that comparison because Bellaire is on colors. The tones here are similar to her work on Moon Knight: lots of blacks, browns and grays accented with splashes of neon in appropriate spots.
The first half is a bit dialogue and recap heavy but it’s a nice snack after the feast of action in AXIS #2. The true joy of the issue is Mags channeling his inner Danny Ocean and recruiting baddies like Carnage, Absorbing Man and Deadpool in the back half.
If you like AXIS and want a bit more context when I highly recommend this, but even after that Magneto appears to be a damn fine comic starring a character that remains one of the most complex and alluring figures on the printed page.